Humanz – Gorillaz
Review by Neil MacAlister
It’s been six long years since we last heard from Gorillaz, and the lack of a genre-defying cartoon band has left a noticeable void. In the wake of increasingly volatile political climates in both the US and the UK, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett decided to reunite Gorillaz to soundtrack a party for the end of the world.
The guest list for this party ended up featuring a remarkable assortment of artists, both well-known and esoteric, each of which was reportedly asked by Albarn to “imagine a night where everything you believed in was turned on its head.” The result is a frantic, extravagant, chaotic collection of music. Albarn took a backseat to the featured artists on Humanz, giving space for his many collaborators to show off.
This is probably Gorillaz’s most hip-hop heavy album, with features from Vince Staples, Danny Brown, Pusha T, De La Soul, and Zebra Katz. There’s a significant soul/R&B element as well, from established greats like Mavis Staples and Grace Jones to up-and-comers like Ray BLK, Peven Everett, and Kali Uchis. Albarn has a knack for playing artists to their strengths, and that’s never been more evident than on this album.
The only things lacking on Humanz are more vocals from Albarn himself (his one solo track, “Busted and Blue,” is an absolute highlight) and a general lack of cohesiveness. Humanz works more like a playlist than an album, with little connecting the 26 tracks together. Regardless, Gorillaz managed to curate an excellent project, brimming with ingenuity.
Pure Comedy – Father John Misty
Review by Neil MacAlister
On Pure Comedy, Father John Misty takes critical aim at everything, everywhere, all at once. If this seems ambitious, it’s because it is: a sprawling, 75-minute album is what it takes for Misty to hold a mirror to the world and laugh at the tragic absurdity. It’s profoundly verbose, and while Misty’s observations seem pretentious and cynical, there’s an undercurrent of hope that keeps Pure Comedy from descending into insufferable ennui.
Each song is its own little diagram of absurdity and idiocy, as Misty admonishes modern society with his signature wit and eloquence. Pure Comedy’s centrepiece, “Leaving LA,” finds Misty taking on not just the absurdity of the city of LA, but the absurdity of Misty himself as “another white guy in 2017 / who takes himself too goddamn seriously.”
Misty’s work tends to be long-winded and pretentious, but like a folk-rock Kanye West, he’s aware of his pretension; luckily for us, his self-righteousness is overpowered by his profundity. Musically, it’s a beautiful album, with a stripped-back reliance on piano and guitar, and subtle string arrangements to evoke grandiose emotions. This is, undoubtedly, one of the best albums you’ll hear all year.
DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
Review by Naeem Merali
In a society obsessed with robotic perfectionism, Kendrick Lamar presents us with a very human, raw, and honest 14-track LP in DAMN. This album stands out from his previous works as it is intensely more personal and rife with internal conflict. On the songs “HUMBLE.” and “PRIDE.”, Lamar gives us a front row seat to his thoughts on ego and how it affects his life.
On “LUST.”, we hear Lamar talk about how people can get trapped in their daily routines, as well as his thoughts on the recent US presidential election. “FEAR.” is arguably one of the best songs in Lamar’s entire discography, in which he discusses how his fears have evolved through life’s stages of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. DAMN. is explosive, melancholy, and filled with sharp, expressive lyricism.
Religious themes are also prevalent throughout the record as the phrase “ain’t nobody prayin’ for me” is repeated several times, demonstrating that God and salvation play an important role in Lamar’s life. It would be difficult for anyone to compile their emotions, thoughts, and views on the chaos that is our world coherently, anyone but Kendrick Lamar that is. It’s safe to say he did a DAMN good job.
ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ – Joey Bada$$
Review by Naeem Merali
On ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$, Joey Bada$$ stays true to his roots of boom-bap hip hop while remaining fresh and exciting. On Joey’s second full-length studio LP, he sounds more mature and experienced, and it’s clear from the opening track “GOOD MORNING AMERIKKKA” he has something to say. ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ is heavily political, discussing subjects such as police brutality, institutional racism, and the recent US presidential election.
ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ shows clear improvement in Joey’s writing style and ability to create focused, fleshed-out tracks. Joey Bada$$ also does an excellent job of incorporating sonically upbeat tracks such as “Devastated” to balance out the grimy sonic landscape in which he thrives.
It is also evident from the cohesiveness of the record that the featured artists are meticulously picked. For example, ScHoolboy Q fits perfectly on the hard-hitting standout track “ROCKABYE BABY.” ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ feels like a coming-of-age for the New York rapper with subject matter that appears to get more relevant as time passes.